Readers interested in 19th- and early-20th-century society, especially that of the upper classes, will enjoy this picture of...

A HOUSE FULL OF DAUGHTERS

A MEMOIR OF SEVEN GENERATIONS

Nicolson (Abdication, 2012, etc.) traces seven generations of women connected to the Sackville Wests.

Beginning with her great-great-grandmother Pepita Duran (1830-1871), the flamenco dancer known as the Star of Andalusia, and her doting, if not smothering, mother, the author follows the relationship between mothers and daughters through the generations. Once diplomat Lionel Sackville-West fell under Pepita’s spell, she rejected her mother and lived as his mistress. She adored her illegitimate children despite being ostracized from polite society, including Lionel’s. When she died in childbirth in Arcachon, near Bordeaux, the children were scattered, until Lionel needed a hostess for his posting to the United States. His daughter Victoria stepped in and was a brilliant addition, winning her way into the society surrounding the estate at Knole. She married her cousin, who would inherit the estate, and the difficult birth of Vita ended any semblance of happiness in the marriage. Vita and Harold’s marriage was as happy as it was unconventional: both had lovers of the same sex, she more than he. Her son and daughter-in-law Philippa carried on the family, and Philippa extended the nonmaternal lines that had progressed through the years. This social history and story of family relationships is also the tale of Knole, the ancestral home, and its magnetic hold on those women. In the same light is the pull of Sissinghurst, the home bought by Vita and her husband, Harold, when she was unable, as a woman, to inherit Knole. The first half of the book portrays strong, if flawed, women, while the ending is more autobiographical and, while well-written, more cathartic than interesting.

Readers interested in 19th- and early-20th-century society, especially that of the upper classes, will enjoy this picture of the privileged life, “where loyalty, respect and equality are all held in the highest regard.”

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-17245-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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